Imagine building a tiny chip that can perform the same exquisitely sensitive diagnostic tests that currently require an array of equipment in leading-edge biomedical research labs. Now try to scale that chip’s output to equal the power of 100 labs, and you get a sense of Frederick Balagaddé’s ambitions – and challenges.
Balagaddé is an assistant investigator at the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH), where he is developing research and diagnostic tools to help control the devastating HIV and TB epidemics in South Africa and beyond. HHMI and the University of KwaZulu-Natal collaborated in creating K-RITH to foster research that will help control HIV and TB.
Balagaddé’s bold ideas could change how HIV and TB testing is done in the developing world. His chip designs minimize the time, cost, and effort needed to culture microbes. The technology makes it possible to test smaller biological sample sizes, reducing the risk of exposure to infectious pathogens.
A native of Uganda, Balagaddé trained with leading researchers in the United States, including HHMI Investigator Stephen Quake, who was then at the California Institute of Technology. In Quake’s lab, he built a new kind of microfluidics chip called a microchemostat, capable of culturing live bacterial cells for weeks at a time. The successful design was built on hundreds of experiments and many unsuccessful prototypes.
Balagaddé returned to Africa in 2012 to join K-RITH, where he is developing microfluidic chips to deliver low-cost diagnostic tools and high-throughput research platforms to address HIV and TB. This technology is much needed in Africa where, Balagaddé notes, there is an increasingly intense demand for first-class health care solutions at local market rates.
HHMI has brought its model for funding basic research to a global health problem by creating the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH), in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. K-RITH brings some of the brightest scientific minds from Africa and around the globe to concentrate on tuberculosis and HIV in a region where the convergence of these two diseases has created an extreme health crisis. Read more>>